ALFRED DEAKIN, 1856-1919

Alfred Deakin was the man mainly responsible for the passage of the Australian Constitution through the English House of Commons. He became Australia's second Prime Minister, after Edmund Barton who himself was inspired to enter politics by his Presbyterian Minister, Dr. Robert Steele. The fourth Prime Minister, Sir George Reid, was also inspired to enter politics through Dr. Steele's influence. Deakin, a native born Australian was nurtured in his faith by his mother. It was Deakin who seconded the motion of Sir Henry Parkes for the proposed Federation of the Australian States

Deakin kept a Spiritual Diary and from 1884 to 1913 wrote a "Boke of Praer and Praes" containing nearly four hundred prayers, many relating directly to major decisions in his public life, revealing his utter dependence on God (for a brief time he joined the Theosophy Society but resigned in 1896).
For a complete transcript follow these links
Typescript of 'The boke of praer and praes' (Part I of III) (nla.gov.au)    Papers of Alfred Deakin (nla.gov.au)   MyWay
Typescript of 'The boke of praer and praes' (Part I of III) (nla.gov.au)

Deakin prayed over the proposed Australian Constitution continually and was delighted when the Constitutional Convention unanimously carried the preamble inclusion "humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God"

In the concluding words of his book The Federal Story Deakin remarks that Federation and the Australian Constitution were 'providential' and were secured only 'by a series of miracles'

In his notes in 1905 Deakin remarks "sufficient to say that the religion of Jesus Christ is the life of the present, the light of the future and the hope of the world."

Many years later he stated: "A life, the life of Christ, that is the one thing needful - the only revelation required is there... we have but to live it."

A Christian statesman, he was the first Attorney General of the Commonwealth, and as such, founder of the High Court of Australia. He served three times as Prime Minister when a considerable amount of the Commonwealth's initial legislation was commenced. As Prime Minister he founded the Arbitration Court, the Australian Navy, as well as choosing Canberra as the nation's capital

The following prayers illustrate his burden for the nation of Australia, as well as for holiness and obedience in his own personal life


Almost always I realise the existence of God - always I believe in Him with my intellect and turn to Him with my heart but I am anxious for a closer and more permanent relationship

Almost always I believe in the spiritual efficacy of prayer and often I am inclined to pray; sometimes the power to put my cry in words will come - sometimes it will not come

I shall write those prayers I can express so as to open the channel wider and enable me to recall past prayers when I cannot uplift fresh appeals. Let me know my wants if I can know nothing else


1 3.8.84

"O God teach me to pray - give me the impulse to prayer, give me the sense of Thy nearness, give me that insight into Thy nature which shall quicken me to faith, give me the feeling of absolute isolation from the world and from my lower self that I may realise and reap the fruits of communion with Thee."

"O God I approach Thee in spirit and in truth with but dim knowledge and indefinite expectation and confessed doubt but with a longing for Thy inspiration, with a craving trust in Thy will and power to help Thy creatures and with a frequent though faltering reliance on my own intuitions."

"O God teach me to pray."

2 9.8.84

"O God teach me to pray - for to pray is to acknowledge Thee and Thy influence upon my soul and to bow my pride to beg of Thy bounty somewhat to satisfy my thirsty spirit
O God teach me to pray - give me that lowliness of heart, that modesty of desire, that patience in enduring and that transport in acting which belong to the prayerful
O God teach me to pray for to pray is to feel my manifold weaknesses, deficiencies and failings - it is a confession of my keen sense of my own unworthiness out of which I look up to Thy helpfulness and cry
O God teach me to pray."

3 10.9.84

"O God teach me to pray - to pray for the knowledge of Thee who art beyond all knowledge in Thy Self but who hast revealed Thyself in Nature and in the Soul
O God teach me to pray for to pray is to feel Thine infinite power and Thine infinite love and cast myself upon Thine infinite compassion - to know Thee must be to know the sum and substance of all knowledge. All that has been, all that is but imperfectly though wonderfully declares Thee. To know Thee is to know myself and my destiny in Thy Will - it is joy and strength and expansion of my whole being. That I may come to know Thee O God teach me to pray and to pray for this revelation."

4 17.8.84

"O God teach me to pray and to realise the true nature of prayer. There is nothing that Thou canst' grant me so precious as thine inspiration. Within me is the reality of things as it is with the universe upon which I look. Make that pure, holy and serene and as far as there can be happiness in self the world shall not touch me and I shall be in perfect peace. The discords there are the only discords I can dread. There is for me the devil and all his angels. Mine also the hosts of Thy ministers struggling for my salvation. From without come rumors, disquietudes, temptations, and failing of heart and from without also hope, confidence, strength and the trumpet tongues of Thy messengers. But all meet within - there is the battle of life - there is my fate decided and there I must fail miserably if I find not Thee. I pray O God for no earthly gift whatever it be Thy will that I should endure I am contented. I would say also Thy will be done in what shall please Thee to give me in the way of spiritual gifts. But yet I cry for light. I cry for sympathy. I cry for assistance - because it is Thy will that I should cry. But I cry only for Thy Spirit and from my spirit and continue crying O God teach me to pray."

5 23.8.84

"O God I pray for certitude. I would fulfil Thy will and obey Thy law but it is not in the nature Thou has given us to find Thy Will and Thy law so that we can rest upon a sure foundation. To all the trials and temptations to which we are subject there is none that we may not hope to face and conquer if only we can be certain that we are not crucifying ourselves for a false thing. The mists that encompass us keep many who would wish to be of Thine army apart because it is hard to find which are Thy banners and which those of the other ignorant or darkened ones who resist Thee. Out of all these straits there is deliverance. Thou O God in Thine own way are seeking to deliver us - for the trials Thou givest strength and for the doubt faith - insight which is so clear that it carries its own assurance with it - insight into Thy nature which we can then trust utterly when even perhaps we cannot understand. O God give me this faith, this insight and add to it the knowledge of Thy Will and Thy law - give me the certitude of these and then without other measure of Thy Grace I could subsist and expand and bear better witness to Thy Glory. I pray for many spiritual gifts O my Father but first of these give me Faith, give me insight and the certitude of knowledge of Thee."

72 6.7.90

Deakin's desire to be in His perfect Will to serve his family and nation

"Gracious and Merciful enable me to fulfil my daily duties with patience, meekness, humility and cheerfulness. Grant me the sincerity of soul to slight nothing, neglect nothing, and spare nothing that may enable me to be just and kind to all about me. If my life cease now or my public career come to a speedy end; if all large or notable work be put beyond me let me at least as son, brother, husband, father, friend and citizen carry into all these relationships and to all my private life the spirit of sacrifice, of self-conquest, of aspiring zeal and of true unselfishness. Give me of Thy great eternal and all-embracing Love enough to guide me in my home and business to make them worthy of Thy constant presence."

76 27.7.90

"God grant me the knowledge of such Truth as may be useful to me, enable me to live aright and serve Thy purposes. Grant me the courage to declare, defend it and be governed by it in all contingencies; grant me the solace of it in my failures and the strength of it in my trials; let me minister to it with unselfishness and zeal without regard to its favor or success but with tact and judgment so as to offend none that may advance its cause and win to it from those who oppose it. Servant of Thy Truth grant me only the means, power and opportunity of service; to seek for no other reward or consolation but to sanctify through it my life, speech and utterances. O God I humbly pray for this great grace."

77 3.8.90

"God my Father whose mercy has succoured and shielded me so that my weakness has not been shamed nor my frailty rent asunder I look back upon a past in which I have sinned deeply against Thy law and Thy love and know the root of my iniquities still living in my breast. I beseech Thee that it may be withered in me by the force of Thy consuming fires rather than remain with me to the end. Youth is past and manhood unfolded to its full but I find myself still feeble, still doubting, still uncertain of my life and part, still a scholar learning little and all unfit to rise or rule. The place I occupy belongs to me nor by right nor by qualification and I covet it not or seek not to covet it. My home happiness, my joy in my children, my loving parents and sister, my worldly ease are blessings to which I can feel no claim. Not just to me but gracious and generous has Thy dealing been and I am too poor in soul even to appreciate it. That I may be nerved for the tasks, strengthened for Thy duties, buoyed in the self control and self command and guided in my aims and actions in my coming life is my earnest prayer O God. I would wish to retain the hope, the enthusiasm, the trust of youth with such ripeness as my nature permits of at its maturity. I would wish to serve those I love and make them happy while most ministering to bring them nearer to Thee and Thine. This above all things O God. I would also crave to do something for my country and my kind if ever so fractional and pray to be shattered and crucified rather than aid anything contrary to Thy Will and their elevation. Let me serve somewhere and somehow Thy purposes and for myself I seek no more. Yet will I rejoice to receive glimpses of insight into Thy Being and Thy Nature, yet will I glory in the visible manifestations of Thy Power and Thy Love; yet will I drink deep of all those delights which my home, wife and children and all loved ones bring me and kneeling thank Thee for them day by day. Make me O God sincere in all things but above all things in my devotion to Thee. I ask neither prize, nor remission of penalty, but only to serve Thee and if possible to know that I am serving."

Prayer 79 16.8.90

Prayed after Lord and Lady Hopetoun's opulent ball of 17.7.90 '...without God the world would only know spiritual failure, intellectual barrenness and a fruitless round of existence.'


"Merciful and Just and Loving in this world Thy presence is an ideal; Mercy and Justice and Love are daily crucified. Those who most desire that Thy Kingdom should come must most despair of it and doubt its coming if they rely upon the testimony of their senses or trust to the records of distant horrors. Heaven is where these Thy qualities reign and our only foretaste of Heaven lies in the belief in it coupled with some small realisation of it granted to us in our narrow circle of experience. My lips fail of thanks and praise not because these are not daily due from me. Judging by my own life there is more than justice and mercy; there is inexhaustible love, pity and tenderness; there is hope for all and there is already joy and peace to be received and rested upon. It is the shadow of a general gloom of dimly perceived wrong, of the boundless and endless inflowing and outflowing tide of human misery that weakens and saddens and petrifies my song of praise. If I put this vision of the outer world far from me and regard it as a pageant played in a theatre; if I trust but to my own life and my own thought I should be afflicted only by my spiritual failure, intellectual barrenness, and fruitless round of existence. I should rejoice in simple pleasures and in undeserved content. I should enfold myself in my home and musing remaining a grateful and a glad if idle and selfish worshipper. Let me do right and service and win faith O God by a true life and sincere effort to know and do my duty."

Prayer 81 30.8.90

Prayed after industrial conflict during the great strike of 1890 and formation of Labour Defence Committee by the Industrial Defence Council. Rallies in Sydney's Domain on 17 August, and Melbourne's wharves on 24 August


"God grant Thy spirit to us. Let it be poured abroad and awaken all men to their better selves so that in these hours of strife and industrial conflict peace may be preserved and right triumph by means of reason and conscience. Let the enfranchisement of the many receive no check; let the bonds of labour be loosened for the free growth of humanity; let private worth and private life and even possessions be preserved from harm but let them become consecrated more to the service of the race. Strengthen the weak, comfort the poor and rule the members by the law of love and justice. Grant me O God Thy grace of wisdom to discern the needs of each hour that I may act with power and promptitude to suppress violence and with mildness and moderation so that all possibly avoided suffering may be avoided."

82 6.9.90

"God have mercy upon us and guide us through the toilsome ways of strife and discord. Thou hast been pleased to protect us and compose our bitterness under a surface of order. Oh God beneficient and mighty establish that order upon sure foundations all the world over and in this continent enable it to be based speedily in liberty and peace. Let us raise the worker with band and the worker with brain to lives pure, wholesome and peaceful and build of their true lives a noble State as a temple to Thee and Thy glory in humanity. Let us be as Thy children obedient, trusting, loving one another. In thanks and praise I cry for light and power to enable me to fulfil unflinchingly my part of this great task."

101. A Prayer of Repentance 20.10.90

"God forgive my trespasses by enabling me to avoid and resist them in future. Purge me within and let the circle of consequence of my life embrace me only in its penance. Grant where my influence is not for good that I may be deprived of it and of all that could convey that influence. Let my errors be made manifest to all so that others may escape them. Let me prefer the pillory to the pulpit unless I can preach repentance in sincerity. If my moral development be incompatible with that of others I leave the issue in Thy hands. It is not for me to believe that this is possible in Thy universe but if it be a condition of this imperfect world I submit myself to Thy purpose and ask nothing that is not best for all."

119 22.11.91

In November 1891 Deakin decided to return to the bar, since immediate Federation was unlikely, and prospect gloomy. Many of the prayers at this time centred around this theme

"In meditating a change of pursuit I pray to be delivered from selfish aims, or mistaken estimates, grant O God that my judgment may be swayed by conscience only and let me be guarded from peril to my soul's health or growth. If I count for anything in Thy purpose let me be turned aside from prosperity or power and live only for Thy service in all deeds and thoughts in that walk and way which shall most fulfil Thy Will In all sincerity and trust I cry for aid and guidance. There is nothing but my reason to which I can turn. I stand alone amid baffling and bewildering events - feeble, unworthy, inconsistent, strained and impaired as I am I have aspired and do aspire to sink myself and serve Thee in that I may serve those I love, my country and my kind. God forgive my past and use my future

Prayer 120 28.11.91 and Prayer 121 2.12.91

Prayed after the collapse of the City of Melbourne Building Society in November 1891. Deakin was the chairman of directors, and the collapse severely affected his financial position and self respect. Victoria was in a general economic crisis at this time

120 28.11.91

"Disaster has overtaken me at last O God: and upon me lies in some degree the responsibility for disaster to many others. Grant that it may be mitigated for them. It seems idle to pray for individuals or masses carried down the sweep of events and it seems selfish to pray for oneself. My capacity for public usefulness is diminished and my possibilities of literary work limited by this failure which appears to push me back into private life and professional drudgery. Let none of these things weigh upon conscience or purpose divert me from the best work that yet remains for me. If I could understand I should be encouraged. I cannot understand, let me not be discouraged, weakened in faith, or more excluded from righteousness than I would have been."

121 2.12.91

"Merciful God in the midst of trial and weariness I have been sustained and protected so that my heart overflows in thankfulness for this personal mercy. I crave now wisdom and courage to temper the blow to those upon whom it is falling and guidance to enable me to assist to rescue them in the best way. Let calmness and confidence be found among all so that our country may reap only good and useful lessons from its privations. Let us fulfil Thy purposes even in our pleasures and learn even through material vicissitudes to attain a purer and higher spirit of public and private life. Thanks and praise Oh God for these mercies to me - enable me to act and to submit so as to do my duty unflinchingly and judiciously."

127 31.1.91

Written when the Federal cause was at its lowest, and after the collapse of the City of Melbourne Building Society

"Gracious God more than ever do I need guidance - more than ever I crave for it - not by miracle but by the enlightment of my faltering judgment - not to success of any kind - but to the best service possible to me. About once more to change my walk of life and embracing a new task I do so despairing of usefulness in my public life, waiting for further developments of events which are subject to Thy Will, and also in the faith that this divergence may fit me in the general opinion and in some degree in actuality for a return to larger responsibilities under more auspicious conditions. Let me be fearless, impartial, earnest, and devoted to the highest causes. Grant me wisdom and courage to scorn all other considerations except that of furthering Thy Will for the benefit of my fellow countrymen."

223 6.3.97

Prayed two days after elections to choose delegates for the People's Federal Convention. Prayed after Deakin's election as a Federal Convention delegate. The first of several prayers to do with the convention. Deakin was returned third amongst the Victorian delegates

Federal Convention Election

"Unguided save by sense of duty grant O Gracious God that the voice of duty in me may be ever and wholly in harmony with Thy Will

I have partly learned to accept events with composure as being the outcome of Thy designs. Grant that this submission may not enfeeble my devotion to the highest I can see, my energy in serving the light, or my courage in resisting the wrong. Seeking to embrace in a limited and imperfect judgment a great field of human activity and to affect potent causes operating for far distant times grant O God that I may have sufficient clearness of vision or sufficient antagonism or failure to avoid injuring the cause of true progress towards Thee and Thy Kingdom on earth. I seek but to serve and pray that my service be solely for the best. Shatter me rather than see me err."

Prayers 224 and 225 4.4.97

Prayed the day of Deakin's election as a Federal Convention delegate. Most of the prayers during the next year were written in the context of the sitting of the Federal Convention. From it emerged the draft Constitution, after months of debate and soul searching

224 4.4.97

"Infinite Spirity of Unity, Order and Harmony, be present with us in our gathering of representatives fitting us our words and works and aims utterly and absolutely to Thy Divine Will for the best results to Thy people here and elsewhere to all Thy peoples everywhere and to the coming of Thy Kingdom. Subordinate the personal, the selfish, the aggressive, the obstinate in us that we may fulfil Thy larger purpose and fuller service and may succeed or fail, stand or yield, concede or refuse as shall be right in the broadest sense and produce a fruit acceptable to Thy Divine purpose. For myself O God obliterate me thoroughly, shut my self and my interests from my sight,or consciousness, in my surrender to Thy will as thine instrument for any office however mean or poor in the opinion of others or in my own so that I subserve Thy Beneficience - Thy Justice and Thy Love."

225 4.4.97

"What are thanks O God to Thee fitting for Thee and from me; What is praise O God Thou cans't receive and I offer; What is gratitude for grace and favour and mercy and pity and tenderness and unnumbered blessings showered upon me, upon my wife, children, mother and sister. Sheltered, protected even from myself and from my deeds, for the time from my deserts. Upon the sacred anniversary and for sustenance in the Convention I would offer O God whatever in me is in sacrifice and oblation."

Prayer 232 2.4.98

In Bendigo on 15.3.98, Deakin spoke for the Bill to pass the draft Constitution. This sealed Victorian acceptance for the Bill, but ambivalence came from David Syme and the influential 'Age' newspaper. 'Age' endorsement was vital for the cause.

232 2.4.98

"To pray to Thee O God I must - seeking humbly a closer and more intimate relation between Thy Will and my obedience and yet I hesitate to pray - since all I can utter is an aspiration towards Thee and submission in Faith to Thee. "Nearer O God to Thee" - "Thy Will be done". To praise Thee I cannot for sheer incompetency and ignorance. Yet I would that I could glorify Thee in speech, in thought and in life. To serve Thee is all my aim, including all other aims that are pure, noble and good. My serving I would to be not that of a mere bidden slave but of a son full of love, gratitude and reverence, freely uttered and forgivingly received. Prayer and praise, trust and love, infinite veneration and finite meekness and modesty I crave to use, to realise, to brood upon and to express. Merciful Father aid me."

Prayer 233 4.6.98

Polling day in N.S.W., Vic. and Tasmania was Friday 3rd June 1898. By midnight Deakin knew that Victoria had approved the bill by an overwhelming majority, that Tasmania had done likewise, and that the majority in New South Wales had not reached the minimum number required for the adoption of the Bill.

Hence, Deakin prays here "God preserve this people and grant its leaders unselfish fidelity and courage to face all trials for the sake of brotherhood. Thy blessing has rested upon us here yesterday and we pray that it may be the means of creating and fostering throughout all Australia a Christlike citizenship."


"Father of Nations, receive our psalm of thanksgiving. Enable us to pursue the cause of unity in spite of the obstacles which at present appear to beset our path elsewhere. Guide us to appeal to that which is best and purest so as to make its development and mastery sure under our forms of government. Aid us to purify ourselves by our labours for the general weal and to invoke spiritual and moral principles so as to link us with our brethren on the highest plane to which we can at present attain. God preserve this people and grant its leaders unselfish fidelity and courage to face all trials for the sake of brotherhood. Thy blessing has rested upon us here yesterday and we pray that it may be the means of creating and fostering throughout all Australia a Christlike citizenship."

Prayer 235. 16.6.99

In late June, the amended Federation Bill was approved after a second referendum in N.S.W., following a hard fought campaign. Victoria, South Asutralia and Tasmania greatly increased their majorities. In Queensland Deakin had campaigned with Barton, and by September Queensland had decided on Federation by a narrow margin. Federation was now possible, with Western Australia free to join later if it so desired

Hence, this prayer was prayed on the eve of the 2nd referendum:-

"Infinite and Eternal God thro' Thy intermediaries or by any means I humbly crave that cleansing and clearing of mind which shall enable me to choose my course of life and pursue it faithfully. Guide my judgment so that I may discern the path in which I can be of best service to my kind and most fulfil Thy Will according to my weakness and to existing needs. If I see it strengthen my resolution to take it and keep it despite all temptations and trials. The tasks of the time be all around me but doubt of my own capacity and of their relative importance hamper and harass me. In whatever lot I may be cast I trust to make the true welfare of my dear ones my incessant care but beyond and outside the home I lack light and leading. My powerlessness perplexes and the multiplication of many calls tends to confuse my aims for strong faith in trials. They are of widely varying efficiency and permanence. I wish to choose the best - not from my own point of view nor even that of my family, but from that of the All-Seeing All-Loving and All-Outlasting. I desire to do a man's work and ask no other rewards or recognition. Let me but see it. Let me be but sure of it and with Divine aid I will undertake it without a murmuring, a revolt or a regret. God bless my dear ones and enable me when all things means of blessing to them. God bless my country and my race and all that lives and grant that I may trust Thy Will and live so as to serve their best needs to my best ability."

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